Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Five unforgivable music-related things (from this week) (what, only five?)

1. This mix by Keoki starts with about a minute and a half of crowd noise. It's like he's introducing himself with clapping and cheering to build anticipation for the music you are about to hear via your CD player. The goal of music-loving humanity for the next year or so is to prevent Chris Daughtry from hearing this at all costs, because otherwise he will use this idea for the start of his next album. It's also unfortunate I prefer the cheering intro to a lot of the music on the disc, so I doubt I'll be digging this off the shelf too often.

2. Cowboy Junkies 20th Anniversary "Trinity Sessions". I haven't heard the re-recorded album yet, but I have heard a couple of gig recordings where they play the entire album from start to finish, interspersed with Margo Timmins' glacially slow storytelling about what a special day it was in that church, how their lives changed forever, and plenty more goopy ramblings. Now on one hand, the Cowboy Junkies are fantastic, as is the original "Trinity Sessions", and every lo-fi, reverb-obsessed indie band that recorded anything in the last 20 twenty years owes them a big thank you. On the other hand, why mess with perfection and then spend two hours on stage spilling turgid, demystifying details? I'm torn on this one, but for this week, it's in the "unforgivable" category.

3. Stereotyp, "Keepin' Me". In which Stefan Moerth obsessively attempts to create a radio-friendly R&B megahit. His album "My Sound" suffered from the same problem, but it also had "Fling Style", which out-Rhythm and Sound-ed Rhythm and Sound, complete with the poaching of Paul St. Hilaire, so I was more than willing to give Stereotyp another chance. He's capable of much more adventurous music than this.

4. Asian Dub Foundation: why? Who used to like this stuff? People who bought mix CD's with "Buddha" in the title? I couldn't figure it out ten years ago, and I still can't, but every time I pull out "Stoned ... Chilled ... Groove" I'm forced to revisit the issue. This disc is still a fascinating listen, and it's aged a lot better than you might expect. Fila Brazilia's opener twists itself through fascinating rhythmic changes, Global Communication are their usual amazing selves, and Journeyman drifts his way through a peaceful ambient epic (although, as is the case with nearly everything Paul Frankland did post-"Woob1194", there is too much emphasis on "melding influences" and not enough on ambiance). And Bandulu's "Run Run Run" is still the king of the disc, saving the second half of the mix with its jaw-dropping, stomach-flipping bassline.

5. My International Herald Tribune recently informed me that Starbucks' once-devoted pool of music buyers is starting to turn against it. Why of course -- they've become too commercial ("you sold out!" scream the sweater-clad thirty-somethings over a non-fat latte that can be purchased in roughly 985207235 mega-conglomerate coffee stands throughout the world)!

I never had a problem with Starbucks' much ballyhooed exclusivity deals with the likes of Bob Dylan and Alanis Morrissette. Only major music retailers would be so desperate to treat artists and their albums as public domain whose wares should be sold everywhere in the interest of fairness. It's not fair for the New York Times to exclusively print this article -- let's print it everywhere so all the other papers can make money too! Dumb. But silly me -- I thought the whole idea of selling music at Starbucks was to create their own fiercely loyal highbrow niche market out of thin air (i.e. getting people who don't buy CDs to buy CDs), not to compete with real music chains and to take sales away from them. The notion of people heading down to Starbucks to check out some hott new soundz might seem silly to you and me, but they made it work. And now they've overstepped their original business plan by such a large margin that they've managed to piss off people who buy five CDs a year, and that's not easy to do. It doesn't make Starbucks any less stupid, though. See also, Idolator's take.

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